Bike Share, Bike Now - Dispatch from DC
I recently spent some time in DC for work (I work at a nonprofit, I swear!). During my shuttle from Baltimore into the city, I witnessed a beautiful thing: hundreds of people on bikes. Notably, commuters in business wear – men and women in expensive suits with panniers carrying things like lap tops, documents, and fat wads of cash. Lining the streets were thousands of bikes locked to almost every tree, sign, and parking meter in sight. As I neared my hotel, I beheld another extraordinary spectacle: a bike share station!
I was hesitant to ride at first. Of course, I hadn’t thought to pack a helmet in my suitcase along with my toothbrush, pajamas, and other belongings. I felt I would particularly *need* my helmet if I were to ride in DC because of how intense the traffic is there. Unpredictable and lots of it. Furthermore, the cyclists were unpredictable. The pedestrians were unpredictable. The pigeons were unpredictable. This is not a word I like to have in my vocabulary as a cyclist, so I decided my experiment with the DC Bike Share would be postponed until another trip, with my helmet, a neon yellow safety vest, and bike-pro-boyfriend along for the ride. Then I just might feel comfortable enough to ride in this chaotic web of lawyers and presidents.
However, I discovered the hotel wasn’t as close to my work training as I had planned it would be. Even wearing my somewhat sensible ballet flats, my dogs were barking by the end of my 2-mile walk that first morning. Throughout the day, a little voice was ringing in my head. It was Lance Armstrong and he was saying, “Just do it!” because he likes Nike, bikes, and behaving dangerously. So I took a massive amount of steroids and went in search of a bike-share station.
I stumbled upon the White House and it was all like, “Hello, I’m the White House!” and I was like “Yo, where the bike share at?!” and then miraculously I found a bike share station right then and there. I swiped my credit card, and voila! I was in. The price: $15 for three days. Any trip less than 30 minutes is free. After that, there is a minimum charge of $2 and then prices go up from there. So I tested my bike in front of the White House, avoided tourists and fast-paced legal types, and set out on the road.
AND I FREAKING LOVED IT! Even though the drivers are seemingly crazy, I was treated with respect. No one was honking at me. People gave me room. What was going on?! Well, basically, DC drivers are by now accustomed to seeing people on bikes. And from what I’ve heard, cycling is a relatively new phenomenon in the capital. That means drivers weren’t born seeing people on bikes. They’ve LEARNED. They’ve learned what it means to share the road with other users. Why? Because they had no other choice.
So there is a lot of debate in Cleveland about bike share. Most people believe that Cleveland’s bike infrastructure needs to be built up before we invest in such a program. I disagree. I rode on exactly one bike lane in DC when I decided to take a trip to a special restaurant. There are other bike lanes, of course, but most streets I found myself on lacked any sort of bicycling infrastructure. I didn’t see a single sharrow. I don’t recall noticing any “Share the Road” signs.
Implementing a small bike share program in downtown could be a good start. People who work downtown would likely enjoy the option of riding to eat lunch somewhere special without worrying about spending too much time walking or moving their cars. Also, car-less tourists would have a much easier time visiting the various sights in and around downtown on bike than they currently do on foot or transit. Ohio City, Tremont, University Circle, and Midtown are other natural locations to begin. Get people on bikes. The rest will follow.
Krissie Wells shares her experiences with bicycle riding and other whimsical activities on her blog, www.krissiemeansbusiness.com.